The SaaS lead generation strategies that work for a startup in seed stage
As a SaaS company, lead generation is one of the most important topics you need to worry about. From our experience here at TrekkSoft, there are different drivers you need to check.
First of all, my assumption is that as a SaaS founder you have already set up a marketing and sales funnel with different steps in it. I also assume you have some kind of a qualified lead step in place (in our case we call it a Marketing Qualified Lead — MQL).
When I talk about lead generation, I mean the particular strategies, tactics, and execution to increase the amount of top funnel leads coming into your funnel. And yes, it does matter if your startup is in seed stage or growth stage — the stage you are at as a startup heavily influences what you need to focus on with lead generation (especially: quantity or quality).
Lead gen for a startup in seed stage
Coming from a seed stage perspective, we have tried almost all lead generation tactics. This includes email marketing, SEM, content marketing (which is, in any case, a long shot), meet and greet events, networking events, webinars, partner marketing, and so on.
When in seed stage, it is important to try out all lead gen tactics and then, more importantly, to measure everything. Measurement is super important to allow you to focus on what’s working, have metrics to prove your growth from early on, and have a means to increase your efficiency and traction.
Try out all lead gen tactics and then, more importantly, measure everything.
At TrekkSoft we’re happy users of HubSpot across all of our departments, but especially in marketing. For more on this, you can check out how we increased our leads by 376% and our organic traffic by 429% over in HubSpot’s Success Stories.
Based on our experience, here is my summary of the different sources of lead generation and the merits of each:
- Email Marketing — This is the hammer, especially when helping you to reach and nurture more potential customers early on. I recommend that everyone starting a SaaS company tries email marketing and tracks the results. We’ve used a variety of different email service providers, and they essentially provide the same service (perhaps start with Constant Contact or MailChimp).
- SEM —This is a great tool, but requires people to be searching for your terms. If they aren’t searching for your terms, you are f.cked. In any case, we were lucky to work early on with a freelancer who gave us a lot of expertise. When in seed stage, it is almost impossible to do SEM in-house, unless you have a co-founder who is an SEM genius. What I’ve discovered from my time so far at TrekkSoft, and the same applies for B2B company Lodgify, is that not enough business owners are searching for our terms for us to rely on SEM alone.
- Content Marketing —This is a brilliant strategy, and it’s never too early to start. Don’t delay it with excuses like: “this takes a lot of time”, or “it won’t bring us fast enough results early on”. I remember our CEO Jon Fauver telling us that content marketing is the best thing to do. However, as a team of co-founders, we were prioritising other tactics because we needed fast results to respond to pressure from our investors. This is wrong! Focus on content marketing, monitor Google Trends, and you will see that more and more people will organically search for your company or brand. This, according to the godfather of SaaS — Mr. Jason M. Lemkin, is one of the key factors to achieve a growth stage with more than 50% in organic leads. There is a lot of good material to read on SaaStr. I am a big fan of this portal.
Don’t delay it with excuses like: “this takes a lot of time”, or “it won’t bring us fast enough results early on”.
- Events, Meet & Greets— oh yes, we do a lot of them. If you’re wondering how many people check our TrekkSoft events page and go on to attend them, the answer is a lot of them! Why are events important to us? They are easily worth the effort, trust me. As is the case with content marketing, events won’t necessarily bring you fast results, but they will help you build a “Mini-Brand” (again referring to SaaStr here) and gives you direct feedback from customers. In addition, you have the wonderful ability to start building a powerful network and encourage word of mouth from early on.
Events won’t necessarily bring you fast results, but they will help you build a “Mini-Brand”
- Partner Marketing — This is the holy bible of scaling later on. If you do partner marketing well, you will have — at least partially — somebody doing the work for you. A great example is bexio, the Swiss SaaS Fintech startup, that has an impressive partnership with Swiss banks and several hundreds of accountants all over Switzerland. Partner marketing tactics are extremely powerful, but also a more mid-term to long-term shot. To demonstrate a scalable strategy later on in your growth stage, you need to start early on working on potential partner marketing strategies and partnerships. You can also think outside-the-box: a good example is Divio’s Aldryn Cloud which is run by Django and Django CMS experts (Django CMS achieving more than 100,000 Downloads so far as an open-source project).
Find out what’s working now as well as what is potentially working tomorrow.
For fast results, we have had good experience with email marketing and partially with SEM: this is what we did to increase our quantity of MQLs and in turn increase subscriptions (and keep our investors happy) in TrekkSoft’s early stages.
We’ve found that the best long-term tactics for our SaaS startup are content marketing, meet and greets (or events) and partner marketing.
But in order to achieve the later-stage growth you need, and to develop an organic scalable growth machine, you need to work from an early stage on the tactics that bring you the scale and organic lead growth you need.
These longer-term strategies usually don’t bring you the fastest results, but it’s worth trying a bit of everything early on and tracking the numbers. That way you can find out what’s working now as well as what is potentially working tomorrow.
I can guarantee you: the short-term tactics won’t solve your later-stage growth expectations. The low-hanging fruits are good to give some juice to your investors, but they won’t make you happy mid-term and for sure not in the growth stage of your startup.